13 July 2011

Books wot I have read

Huntress by Malinda Lo

This is set in same world as Lo's first book Ash (a take on a Cnderella story), but with very different feel. It is based on feudal Japan (as far as I can tell, it's not an area/time I'm very familiar with) rather than western fairy tale. The note at the beginning says it's set in the same world, but a long time before. The Wood and fairies are present in this book although -like the human society- feel very different.

3 teenagers Crown Prince Con, Sage-in-training Taisin, and Advisor's daughter Kaede, are sent north on the King's orders to meet with the Fairy Queen. The land has been suffering under ongoing winter, causing famine, vagrancy and rebellion. The small group (including guards) travel into the Wood where they face supernatural dangers. I felt that the quest part of the story worked well, though once the characters reach their destination I felt that the ending was a little rushed, especially considering all the foreshadowing there was.
It is a society -and a story- in which lesbianism is present throughout, and not really a big deal. Kaede is daughter of a royal adviser and so expected to make a political match. she has argued that she's only interested in girls, but her mother tells her she is being narrow-minded while her father ignores her objections.

Taisin sees visions and is adept at controlling energies, making her perfect sage material. When she has a vision that shows her schoolmate Kaede setting out across a lake she is shocked by the deep feelings she has towards this girl she doesn't really know. The quest part of the plot is made more poignant by the growing romance between the characters.

Embassytown by China Mieville

In this book a world is created then torn apart. In this respect it reminded me a bit of Perdido Street Station, which I found more unnerving (terrifying, giant moths) and in the end more melancholy. The major difference is that Embassytown is a far more fragile settlement, it's a human settlement that relies entirely on the cooperation and technology of the native alien Hosts (Ariekes). The story is told entirely in first person by Avice Benner Cho, a woman from Embassytown who was one of few inhabitants to leave and go out to other planets. The first part alternates between present events and flashbacks so that Avice and the world she grew up in are introduced to the reader.

Once we are familiar with Embassytown and how it works -its links with the Host aliens, its bubble of breathable air, its upper class of Ambassadors (fully identical, linked, doppels/twins)- a paradigm shift happens and everything goes to pot. The society that was built up faces a major catastrophe and descends into desperation and barbarism and war. The book is about the people who carry on trying to keep things running in the face of likely destruction. It's about how there will still be factions and politicking even in the face of disaster.

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